Treguier to L'Aber'Wrac'h
02 August 2020
We departed Treguier bang on noon and followed the bouyage downstream, against the tide but managing a steady 5 knots. There were a lot of yachts coming the other way. They would be able to enjoy the famous Treguier market which takes place every Wednesday. There was no wind today, so we motored out of the river, through the narrow channel by Le Corne and out to sea, taking care to avoid the jagged rocks on the port side. Our friends, Ted and Sarah, on Waylander, had left Saint Quay Portrieux earlier that morning and were about 1 hour ahead of us. They saw dolphins twice and a couple of bait balls with tuna a metre long feeding. We had a fairly uneventful trip, seeing nothing of particular interest, other than Les Sept Iles, which appeared to be a popular place for day boats to sail. A few miles before Roscoff, we passed by another group of large rocks and then set our course for Port Bloscon Marina, arriving just after 7pm. Ted and Sarah had acquired a hammerhead berth for both boats and we moored up without any problems. The marina is open at both ends, although only accessible from the north, which means the tide runs through the berths. This is supposed to allow the marina to be self-dredging but can cause issues when berthing, according to the pilot book. We had tea and drinks on board before bed.
The marina is large, modern and spacious and the facilities were good, except for there being no free wi-fi. Unfortunately the lady in the Bureau du Port was as miserable as sin and less than helpful. Talking didn't appear to be her strong point. She preferred to just throw forms and credit card machines at you than speak. Having paid our dues, the four of us took a walk into the old port of Roscoff, which was extremely pretty. The harbour here dries, hence the marina being a mile or so down the coast. We had views across to the Ile de Batz and could see yachts negotiating the narrow and rocky channel, something we would be doing later that day. As we ambled down the colourful streets, we bought basic provisions from the boulangerie and the alimentaire, then headed back to the boat for lunch.
We left Roscoff at 1420 and headed for the entrance to Ile de Batz, marked by 2 prominent bouys only 100 metres apart. Typically there were also fishing pots to avoid here. We remained under engine through the channel, weaving left and right as directed by the bouyage. The channel was busy with boats in both directions, as well as Vedettes (small passenger ferries) and all sorts of small craft heading from Roscoff to Ile de Batz, including kayaks, paddle boards and small motor boats, so there were lots of things to avoid. The French habit of motoring with both sails up became particularly frustrating, as we were giving way, only to find the other boat was under engine. As we approached the wider part of the channel, we put out the foresail, as the wind was almost directly behind us but we weren't making any headway, especially against the small amount of tide. We reverted to the engine and waited for the wind to pick up a bit. Ted and Sarah went round Ile de Batz instead but then picked up a fishing pot. Luckily they managed to get it free without too much trouble. At 1550, 90 minutes into our journey, the wind increased to 13 knots, so we raised the mainsail and put on a preventer, before poling out the foresail for a goosewing. We managed an hour and a half before the wind died, as forecast and we had to motor again. The going was now fast, with the increasing rate of tide somewhat behind us. A couple of dolphins went by, in the opposite direction and then passed Ted and Sarah, behind us too but they weren't interested in staying to play. We passed the Aman Ar Ross north cardinal at 7.3 knots, close enough to spit on, then set course for the Chenal de la Malouine, into L'Aber-Wrac'h. This channel should only be used in good weather and generally from half tide upwards but with the sea now flat as a pancake, we decided we would be fine, despite being a little below half tide. All went well and we picked our way through the bouyage, passed the marina and visitor mooring bouys, to anchor further up river. We had a bit of a discussion about the depth of water, with me saying we were too shallow but Pete decided we were fine and dropped anchor. We had 0.9 metres below the keel with the tide dropping for another 30 minutes or so. We left the depth instrument on and as we swung on the anchor, moved through 0.6 to 0.9 metres before the tide started rising. Ted and Sarah anchored further out, as they draw almost 2 metres and we inflated the dinghy and paid them a visit. The sunset was stunning.
Friday 31st July was our 21st wedding anniversary. I was trying to persuade Pete to get out of bed and make me a cuppa but I was getting nowhere. All of a sudden, I realised we weren't moving and were leaning at a slight angle. That got Pete moving. We had touched the muddy bottom and were starting to lean over slightly. This was due to the wind, which had picked up from nothing, blowing us round 180 degrees and the water there being about 1 metre shallower. We have a longer than usual keel, for a Typhoon, with a big bulb on the bottom, so this wasn't really a problem. I suggested Pete went over the side to scrub the boat's bottom, which he did, donning wet shoes and a skin top. As the tide rose and started to right the boat, he was also able to scrub the starboard side. Whilst we were waiting, we looked at the navigation for Le Chenal du Four, which has a strong tidal race due to the most westerly headland in France and the island of Ouessant (pronounced Ushant), which sits a few miles offshore. It's critical to get the tidal strategy right, to avoid steep and rough seas. Once we were fully afloat, with enough water under the keel, we moved first to a mooring bouy and then, when there was room, into the marina, for our second night. We trekked the 1 mile uphill to the supermarket to provision and then lugged the shopping back down. We were robbed €36 for 12 small beers, between 4 of us, which we needed to cool down after the walk. I cooked spicy chicken and cous cous for tea and we shared a bottle of Saumur fizz, to celebrate our anniversary.
It's Yorkshire Day and we will be heading for Camaret around 4pm today, through the Chenal du Four. The tides are gradually getting later in the day, allowing time to explore in the mornings, before leaving late in the afternoon. The forecast for today is 10-14 knots north westerly, so it could be a lumpy ride for the first hour or so, before we head on a more southerly course. Camaret is 39 miles from L'Aber-Wrac'h but with the string tidal streams, we are hoping this will only take around 6 hours, so we arrive in Camaret just before dark. If we don't, there are no reported hazards on approach to the marinas there, so we should be ok.
Saint Quay Portrieux to Treguier
29 July 2020
We departed Saint Quay around 11am on Sunday, with the sun shining and a light breeze, wearing shorts and t-shirts. The sails were up immediately after leaving the marina and then we headed north. There were lots of small boats out fishing, dotted all over the sea around and between the rocks and it became impossible, with the lightness of the breeze, to maneouvre in and out, so Pete insisted on dropping the main sail and putting the engine on for a short while. The sails were up again in no time and we continued heading north at a rather slow pace until the tide turned to assist us. Pete decided to phone a friend, Arthur and typically we had a big wind shift, with the autohelm on and we hove to before I could get to the helm to react. Pete ended the call and we were on our way again, at a steady 5-6 knots with the tide. We had a simple lunch while still on approach to Ile de Brehat and finished it just in time. We were a good mile or so off the Ile but the wind picked up to 15 knots quite suddenly and a swell developed. When the wind hit 18 knots we reefed both sails and things began to get interesting. The wind increased and so did the swell and then whirlpools started to appear; flat circles whirling in opposite directions in the middle of 4 metre waves. I gave the helm over to Pete and donned my life jacket. The wind hit 22 knots and the waves were getting bigger, with white water due to the wind against tide situation. We were flying at up to 9 knots but not necesarily in the right direction. A tack was called for and the starboard tack was alittle quieter. Pete reefed in the foresail a little more and the boat felt better balanced and helming was a little less of a full body workout. We tacked out and in again and the sea calmed somewhat so we decided to risk the 200 metre wide channel between 2 sets of rocks, between Lezardrieux and Treguier. As we approached, the swell increased again and we looked at each other and agreed this was no longer a sensible option, so we tacked out to sea again, through the waves and white water until we were well past the north cardinal and one final tack put us on approach to the Treguier River. It was a long way round and an arduous sail but better safe than sorry. We followed the complex bouyage into the river and through Le Corme, a narrow gap just inside the river entrance. We were still under sail. I wanted to drop the sails where the river widened but Pete was on the helm and refused, opting to sail, despite the fact the reds and greens were all over the place and the wind wasn't in the right direction to make some of the red bouys. I was easing and tightening sails every minute, as the wind was rising, falling and swirling. Pete shouted for a tack about 10 seconds before likely contact with a bouy and we just scrapped by. My stress levels were going through the roof but Pete persisted in sailing until we all but ran out of room and had to drop the main very untidily in one, letting it fall into the stacker pack. We then continued up river under engine, appreciating the lovely houses and views, until we reached the choice of two anchorages, half a mile short of the marina. We opted for the mud bank, rather than the one under the cliffs below the 'chateau', as the latter had a solid wall nearby. At least if we dragged in the mud we would only run agorund on the mud. On the second attempt. the anchor caught and stopped the boat and we were set for the night. The tide turned within 30 minutes of arrival, which spun us 180 degrees, giving us further confidence. It was extremely sheltered and we spent a comfortable night, with no rocking whatsoever. The drag alarm went off several times but we weren't dragging, only the tide was changing. We slept in until 9am, before heading up to the marina to sit out the forecast 30+ knot winds. The wind was behind us as we berthed but the tide was against us, so berthing was actually easier and more successful than we had anticipated. There were also plenty of helpful fellow sailors, English, Irish and Belgian, to hold the boat off while all lines were secured.
Treguier is a beautiful, medieval town, with most of its buildings preserved. It has a beautiful cathedral, with a typical Bretton cutout spire and many tudor style houses and shops. See the Gallery for photos. We spent a pleasant couple of hours exploring before lunch back on board. We chatted to an English man and his son, who are moored opposite us and have been in Treguier for a week. They unfortunately came to grief, a week ago, in that rocky channel that we avoided. They left it very late to abandon and on rounding the north cardinal were too close in and hit a rock. They described the impact as like a car crash. They recovered and radioed a PAN PAN, a cry for non-emergency assistance, as they did not know what the damage was. They made it to Treguier and had the boat lifted to discover an S bend in their keel. €600 later and they are back in the water, unable to make any repairs and with their confidence dented.
The bar by the marina advertised oysters, daily, between 6 and 8pm, so having finished a game of backgammon, we headed over just after 6.30pm so Pete could have oysters before dinner. Unfortunately they had already run out, so we headed up into the town again to see if any other bars were serving them. Pete was disappointed and we returned to the boat for dinner and a beer. Following the issues with the drag alarm, we decided to set it before we went to bed, to see if it still went off in the marina, while tied to the pontoon. Sure enough, around midnight it went off, so we will revert to using the drag alarm on the B&G instruments and just leave the plotter on overnight, when at anchor.
Tuesday morning we went back to the town to buy bread, milk and visit the Poissonerie, deemed to be fabulous in the pilot book. There was a lon queue outside. We bought oysters, for Pete, prawns, also for Pete and clams, for a spaghetti bongalaise for tea. Then we paid a visit to La Cave, a fabulous wine shop, to rival Flourish and Prosper in Howden. The French wines being much cheaper, we purchased a bottle of fizz and a Givry red (Burgundy), which we will celebrate our 21st anniversary with on Friday.
At 1pm we departed the marina and returned to the anchorage 3/4 of a mile downstream. We were joined by 3 other yachts this time. The sun was shining and the afternoon was spent reading, playing backgammon and listening to music, with a background of birdsong. We could hear green woodpeckers and buzzards and saw the buzzards circling high in the sky several times. A video call was made to Mum and Dad, to wish Mum a happy 75th bithday for tomorrow (29 July). Then Pete cooked the bongalaise, which was devine. I had the best night's sleep for a while, as the boat sat peacefully at anchor, with no disturbance from the anchor drag alarm. We have awoken to a beautiful still and sunny day and there's a mass exodus from the marina, presumably of boats catching the tide east. We will be leaving around 12, to motor down the river, push the tide for an hour or so before being helped on our way to Roscoff, a trip of 42 miles.
See you for the next episode soon.
Saint Malo to Saint Quay Portrieux
26 July 2020
Thank you to everyone who has commented on our blog so far. Hopefully you are all enjoying it and are not deterred by the length. I do get carried away when I start writing. Note that there are also new photos in the Gallery. We have been having some issues and the laptop doesn't appear to like the photos from Pete's camera, so we are reverting to photos on the tablet going forwards.
We were awoken by the noise from the engines of the Brittany Ferry docking a couple of hundred metres away, just inside the entrance to the commercial harbour, some 200 metres away. Yachts heading east had already left, whereas we had no plans to leave before 10am at the earliest. We were planning a short motor to Ile des Hebihens, an anchorage about 6 miles away, which would be all motoring through the narrow inisde channel. After a leisurely breakfast, we set off, picking our way through the well marked bouyage and negotiating the myriad of small craft out fishing around the many rocks. Luckily it was near enough high water, so we had plenty of depth to play with when avoiding other boats. We had to cross a drying height, something we are getting very used to in this area and had about 9 metres of water beneath the keel. We arrived at Ile des Hebihens in about an hour and found the spot, between that island and La Nelliere, which has 2m depth a chart datum. Being only a couple of hours after high water, we were anchoring in over 14 metres of water and Pete let most of the chain go, perhaps not intentionally and then reined it in 10 metres. The anchorage was idyllic, between the two islands. There was a lovely sliver of golden beach to the south of us and a small castle on the hill to the south west. There was also a large drying rock about 70 metres east of us, which we used to confirm that the anchor wasn't dragging. We killed the engine, updated the log, shut down the instruments and peace descended on us. A few small boats came in and out during the day but the majority of yachts and motor cruisers anchored or tied up to the bouys on the drying heights to the south west of Ile des Hebihens, out of our sight. They would be leaving well before low water. It was another warm and mostly sunny day and we were able to relax, read and sunbathe. Pete even dived over the side for a naked swim (sorry, no photo!). We were visited by several small aircraft, one which looked like a glider but definitely had an engine flew low over the anchorage. We had a lovely salad for lunch, washed down with a bottle of wine, the last one of our supply, ensuring we wouldn't be drinking in the evening, when we may need to watch the anchor. The wine wiped me out, so I had a little siesta while the sun was taking a short break. It was interesting watching the changing landscape around us as the tide fell and then rose again. By low water, we were almost surrounded, with only two small entrances or exits from our anchorage. At high water we could see the mainland when scanning from south west to south east and we were wide open to the north. Late afternoon, when the water was low, the birds came out, oyster catchers, curlews and even an ibis. We were watching the wind, which was due to pick up a little before turning more westerly, as we had the option to move to the east side of Ile des Hebihens but further off to ensure we wouldn't dry out. The wind didn't materialise so we headed for bed at 10pm, with high water due at 2208. At 2210 the wind turbine kicked in, followed by the halyards vibrating, definitely not air on a G string either. After 20 minutes the wind had whipped up a bit of a swell and the boat started to rock. This caused the water to bang around in the tank beneath my head and the waves to slap the transom, which behaves like a boom box. Despite the noise, Pete started to snore and I snuggled down, believing that the noise and the rocking would reduce as the tide fell and the wind direction changed in our favour. I looked at my watch at midnight and then fell asleep. 30 minutes later, the anchor drag alarm went off. As far as we could see in the dark, we hadn't moved, just swung on the anchor so our stern was facing the big rock, which was now perhaps a little too close for comfort. Pete went and took in some chain and we went back to bed. Pete drifted off to the Land of Nod again and I tossed and turned, unable to sleep with the increasing rocking and noise. At 6am we were up and by 6.30am we were on our way to Saint Quay Portrieux, despite the tide being against us. Lesson learned, 'if in doubt, move to definite shelter'.
There wasn't much wind but being in no rush, we had the sails up and meandered amongst the many boats out in the bay. We passed St Cast, which had been another alternative for the previous night and then another two headlands. The first sported a castle and the second the Cap Frehel lighthouse. I saw the first but had returned to bed before the second, to catch some much needed sleep. Typically the wind died so I was kept awake by Pete trimming the sails, then dropping the sails, playing with the chart plotter, pip, pip, pip! and then the engine. Nevertheless, I persevered for almost 2 hours and felt better for the shut eye anyway. We passed some pretty little villages along the coast before cutting across to St Quay Portrieux, which is a 24 hour access harbour, very rare on this coast. We were planning to stay for 2 nights, as 30 knot winds, from the west, were forecast for Saturday, making it impossible to round the next point, en route to Roscoff, where tides run hard and fast. Our friends, Ted and Sara, were due to put their boat back in the water here this weekend, having completed a massive cleaning job following 10 months of neglect due to Winter followed by Covid-19. They arrived on board with a box of cold ones and then took us to the big out of town supermarket to stock up. What a myriad of delights, fresh fish and seafood, pastries, local delicacies and wine! 5 litre wine boxes for €12.75. A couple of those should last us a while, I hope. Back at the boat, the four of us had a quick alfresco nibble and an alcoholic beverage or two, before heading to bed for an early night. That was a great night's sleep.
The day in St Quay has been spent catching up on chores, with a nice walk to the boulangerie for fresh bread and pastries, before the wind got up and the rain showers started. Happy to be in this safe haven today. By the afternoon the wind was blowing 30 knots and the rain was torrential. We did the nav for tomorrow and then relaxed, reading. Ted invited us next door for a curry, having launched his boat, Waylander, that morning and moored up alongside us. Ted and Pete overdid it on the wine and headed to their beds. At 4am this morning, Pete said he was feeling fine. It's now 8.45am and I am showered but he's still in bed with his head under the pillow. Luckily we're not leaving until 11am this morning, heading for Treguier, which is down a river and should provide adequate shelter for the storm which is forecast for Monday. I am expecting a slightly rough sail, following yesterday's wind, especially as we will be wind against a strong tide as we head round the Ile de Brehat. I will report back later on the actual conditions.
Cherbourg to Saint Malo
19 July 2020
Some days the sailing is so sublime that all you need is a cold beer and to kick back, chill and appreciate it afterwards. That was today, sailing Cherbourg to Le Cap de La Hague. We didn't need to depart Cherbourg until 1030 but I was up bright and early anyway. Once Pete caught up with the program, we moved to the fuel berth, before it became too busy. We then moved to one of the waiting pontoons, for a couple of hours, with a good view of some of the racing yachts. We had leisurely breakfast and then finished fitting the deck shower, which needed some sealant before it could be used. We left bang on 1030 and got the mainsail up inside the harbour, motored for a while until we had passed the naval base and then put the genoa up too. The wind was more or less on the nose for heading to the Cap but we tacked out to sea, with the tide pushing us west, before tacking back inland. I was at the helm and pinching up to make the most of the faster starboard tack. It was delightful sailing. Just before we ran out of land and wind, we tacked out again until we could clearly see the Cap on our port side. A final tack put us on course for Cap de la Hague. The tide was strong and strengthening . Although the sea was not rough, there was a decent swell and numerous whirlpools pulling the boat left and right. The boat speed was only about 3 to 4 knots but we maxed out at 11.4 knots with the speed of the tide. It was a bizarre sensation, almost like floating on air. It was difficult to control the direction of the boat, due to the lack of boat speed but we were absolutely flying. We were heading pretty close to the lighthouse, so I had Pete take the helm for a short while and I enjoyed the view. There are some beautiful golden beaches here but they are inaccessible due to the rocks and the Alderney Race (strong tidal flow between France and Alderney). Almost as soon as we passed the Cap the wind dropped significantly, as we expected. There were still plenty of whirlpools but the sea was flatter. We set a course for Dielette and put the autohelm on. The boat speed slowed to between 0.6 and 3.0 knots but we still had the tide with us. Pete did some fishing, unsuccessfully and we had lunch, sitting in beautiful sunshine, lazily travelling towards our destination, a small beaker of wine in hand. The slow progress didn't matter, as we could not access Dielette until almost 1600 hours. As we approached Dielette, all the local yachts and dinghies came out to play, the flap gate having been dropped and we made our way into the harbour, over the sill and the gate and found a berth towards the end of pontoon A. Decent length pontoons for a change and absolutely pristeen. This is the most expensive marina so far, at just over €36 per night but the facilities are great, the staff are friendly and helpful and the surrounding area is very picturesque. We had a beer, sitting on the terrace of the marina's restaurant and bar, in red hot sunshine and started updating photographs in the blog gallery, using the very good free marina wifi. I think this is the first time I have ever had marina wifi that actually works when you are on the boat. We had a lovely video chat with our neighbour, Llynn then cooked tea on the boat. We managed to consume a fair amount of wine (that's the problem with wine boxes instead of bottles) while looking at the navigation for Granville, our next port of call. We also had some music on and a particularly poignant track by Keith Urban, Making Memories of Us. That's exactly what we did today.
On Sunday morning we ummed and ahhed about whether to stay in Dielette or move on to Granville. As we headed to the facilities block to shower, the market was setting up and by the time we returned they had started cooking chickens and hams over a wood fire and the wine shop was opening. That settled it, we were staying another day. We did some more work on the blog gallery and then went to the market to buy lunch (wood roasted ham and frites), via the wine shop to buy wine. For good measure we also bought some fruit! Following lunch we took a walk along the cliff tops, returning via the beach. A small yacht ran aground in the entrance, trying to enter just before low water but within 45 minutes he had floated off and was able to access the marina's waiting pontoon. We had a peruse around the other side of the harbour, which is festooned with gorgeous agapanthus. There's also a little river, which empties into the marina via a waterfall under a quaint stone bridge and a small garden area with a petanque court. We were just missing Tim and Sarah and their set of boules, along with a bottle of wine. Back on board, I'm writing this blog and watching the visiting yachts pull in while Pete has a siesta in the sunshine. All this fresh air is just too much for him. It's just gone 5pm so it might be time for a glass of wine before dinner and we have dessert tonight too, fresh strawberries and cream. It's been a lovely day again.
Monday morning dawned bright and sunny and we departed Dielette in cropped jeans and t-shirts. The wind was forecast to be north easterly, meaning we would probably be sailing on the foresail only. The sail was up within a hundred metres of the harbour entrance and we were on our way but moving slowly with a little tide against us and very light wind. Once we were beyond the restricted area around the power station, just south of Dielette, we gibed the foresail to head south towards Carteret and Granville. Around 1215 Pete shouted that he had seen dolphins of the port side, just as I was going below to prepare lunch, so we rushed up onto the foredeck to get a better look. There were 6 or 8 of them, much larger than we usually see at home, probably common dolphins. They swam beneath the boat and tried playing in the bow wave but we weren't going fast enough to keep them interested and they continued on their way. Not long afterwards, we caught a pot, around low water. The line was floating on the surface. Luckily a quick turn to port managed to loosen the rope and the danger was over. We had lunch, smoked chicken sandwiches and decided that we were in danger of missing the slot into Granville if we didn't make up some ground, so dropped the sail and put the engine on for an hour, while we waited to get help from the tide. The wind then started to pick up and turn more easterly, at the same time as the tide turned in our favour, allowing us to raise both sails and pick up some speed. Now we were really flying and needed our jackets back on to keep warm, despite the sunshine. We were passing Jersey, along way offshore but could see the jagged rocks off the coast. It was ironic that we were passing Jersey exactly 1 month after I should have flown there to meet Pete, the flight obviously cancelled due to Covid-19. Most of our day was spent listening to the dulcit tones of the Guernsey Coastguard, who was calling up every boat in the vicinity to check their intentions, informing them that Guernsey, Sark and Herme are closed to anyone from outside the bailiewick. We also heard him talking to the French Warship we had seen at Cherbourg. The warship wanted permission to pass through Guernsey's territorial waters, which was granted. Just before our approach to Granville, the galleon 'Marite' passed behind us, going rather faster than us with its 7 sails up. However, it had to wait outside Granville for enough water to access the commercial harbour, whereas we cut inside Le Loup (red and black bouy), passed Marite and went straight in. We were met just inside the entrance by a blue uniformed lad in a small rib who would allocate us a berth. Pete asked him for 'a gauche' and he gave us a berth port side to, just inside the marina sill. We were alongside at 1845. You will see pictures of the sill in the Gallery which we took the following day. A vast area outside the marina dries, to as much as 5.5 metres and at low water the sill dries around 3 metres. We paid our dues and went to buy breakfast provisions and beers, as we were expecting guests overnight. Ted and Sara were travelling from Ijmuiden, where they got off the ferry, to Saint Quay Portrieux, where their boat has been on the hard for the last 10 months, so they were making a stop off in Granville to see us and break their journey. They were our first guests on board since we departed Grimsby. A good night was had by all, with dinner at Le Pontoon by the marina.
We decided to stay in Granville on Tuesday, to relax and do some sightseeing. We walked up to St Paul's and then back down to the promenade and then through the pretty town centre and up to the city walls. We also walked round the commercial harbour and the drying harbour but sadly the colourful fishing boats that frequented Granville in my teens, were no longer there. We decided to treat ourselves to a light lunch out, in the narrow streets of the town, choosing an Epicerie called La Pulperia. We ordered 2 glasses of Sancerre, a mixed platter of meats and cheeses and a melon, ham and tomato salad. Both dishes were enormous, so we had to have a second glass of wine each, while we finished the food. If you're ever in Granville, do stop here for lunch. We then shopped in the butchers, the bakers and the supermarket before returning to the boat for some R & R. At last I had my bikini on, soaking up the sunshine. We watched the tide rising, quite quickly, then it was gushing over the sill and within seconds of the digital guage displaying 1.4 metres the boats started racing in. As we were eating tea in the cockpit, we spotted a familiar boat and 3 familiar faces entering the marina. It was Alan, Emily and five year old Troy, in their Sigma 35, who had been moored alongside us in Granville. We gave them some time and then walked round the marina until we found them. Alan and Troy were just returning from a bike ride while Emily was cooking dinner. We left them in peace, with Alan saying he would come over in the dinghy in half an hour to borrow our bike pump as his tyres were a bit flat. He duly arrived and accepted the offer of a glass of wine on board. Hopefully Emily didn't think that he'd got lost! It's a small World. Alan and Emily own Quay Sails, down near Fowey and know Nick Beard and Adam who trawled up north to fit our new engine in February and they also know of Paul and Nancy's relative who builds boats in that area. Alan suggested we visit Saint Malo before we headed onto Saint Quat Portrieux, so we gave it some thought but ultimately decided to go to Saint Quay, given the forecast winds, which promised a good sail.
Wednesday morning we were awake at 7am, although hadn't been planning to leave much before 8.30 to 9am. However, we got up and set off at 8am, without the promised wind. We motored out past Iles Chausey, which comprises Gran Ile and a number of smaller drying 'islands' and rocks, supposedly a great anchorage during the day and visited by many trip boats. Gradually we turned our thoughts to Saint Malo, which would avoid hours of running on the engine and the resulting fuel costs. We were going to miss the last lock in for Port Vauban, which is right beside the walled city, so moored up in Saint Servan / Port des Sablons instead. It's a tricky approach to Saint Malo, with rocks, islands and submerged causeways every which way. We made it through though and were alongside in time for lunch. We decided to get the folding bikes out for the first time since we left Grimsby. The access ramps for the marina were at about 45 degrees, so it was a bit of a slog getting the bikes up there. We had a ride around and eventually found ourselves just outside the ramparts, so locked up the bikes and set off on foot. The city is beautiful and the views from the ramparts are magnificent, especially with a bright blue sky for background. We had a great walk and treated ourselves to a rather expensive ice cream, before returning to the port, via the Carrefour City for provisions. On arrival it was low water and the gradient of the access ramps had increased. I refused to attempt walking my bike down so Pete had to come back for it. Following a shower, we relaxed in the cockpit to watch the chaos that ensues when the tidal height allows yachts to start entering the marina over the sill. It required 2 lads in boats to allocate berths for everyone and our neighbour was asked to move further down the pontoon to accomodate a larger yacht. We were allowed to remain, our 37 foot boat suggesting a deeper keel, although we are actually shoal draught at 1.53m. Our plan is to anchor out tomorrow night, as the winds are negligible and we don't want to motor to Saint Quay or pay for another night in Saint Malo, which is the most expensive marina so far, at €39 and doesn't even have wifi. The only place we can find is at Nelliere, north west of the Ile des Hebihens, just west of Saint Malo. Everywhere else dries and it will be the highest spring tide of the month tomorrow, meaning very shallow low tides and very high, high tides. We will give it a go in the morning if they weather forecast remains the same.
The Normandy Coast - Boulogne to Cherbourg
18 July 2020
After a good night's sleep, we departed Boulogne at 0730, in driving rain and a very lumpy sea. However, by 0810 the engine was off and the sails were up and the swell was easing. We had decided to avoid the large, popular ports and head for Saint Valery en Caux, some 60 miles south west of Boulogne. There were plenty of yachts out but most were hugging the coastline, past the holiday resort of Le Touquet, heading in or out of Le Treport or Dieppe. We were in sight of the coast all day but only distantly. Throughout the day, the weather brightened and it was eventually sunny. We had a useful 8 to 10 knots of wind, west north westerly, for most of the day, allowing us to sail, mostly with additional help from the tide. However, with a couple of hours to go and frustrated by the strong adverse tide, we put the engine on to assure our arrival in St Valery around high tide, as the entrance and approach dries. We took the opportunity to cook pasta carbonara for tea, while the engine was on; one less job for after our arrival. Having negotiated the steep sided approach to the lock gate and swing bridge, we were allotted a hammerhead berth, half way up the marina, a great berth, probably on account of confirming we were staying two nights. Allegedly, berths near the lock gates suffer turbulence when the gates are first opened. The sun was out, so we tidied up, changed into civvies and despite extreme tiredness, headed out for a bottle of wine. Pete couldn't resist the oysters on the menu and many of you will have seen the happy photo on Facebook.
St Valery en Caux, not to be confused with St Valery sur Somme, is a very pretty town, with good facilities but isn't particulary cheap. However, we deserved a rest and had chores to catch up on, so planned to stay for two nights. We had a good sleep in, getting up at around 9am, although I was reading in bed while Pete continued to slumber (snore). We completed our chores in the morning, including mundane admin like renewing Sky broadband and chasing a parcel which was undelivered by MyHermes, then went for a shower. To formally celebrate our arrival in France, we cracked our bottle of Digby's Fine English Sparkling Wine with lunch. Feeling very chilled, we went walkabout to take photos and buy provisions, before returning to write the blog and do the nav for the following day. We treated ourselves to dinner out, couteax (razor clams), followed by moules et frites, washed down with a lovely bottle of Picpoul de Pinet; then it was time for bed.
The 16th July and another 0730 lock out. At least the tide times mean we are sailing long distances in daylight hours. The drying heights and locks at most ports on the north coast of France require that you arrive and depart within one to three hours either side of high water. The lock keeper at Saint Valery raised the bridge for us and gave us a friendly wave and shout of 'au revoir'. This was a lovely place and we would really recommend it to anyone else passing this way, whether by boat or by road. Despite being heavily bombed in the war and rebuilt in the 1950's, St Valery en Caux has retained its charm. There's also King Henry the IV's house here, a very old, tudor style building (see gallery photos).
Today we were heading for Deauville / Trouville, just beyond Le Havre and Honfleur, a trip of around 50 miles. We headed out to sea, under engine, to get a good angle on the wind, which was blowing 8 to 10 knots west north westerly and we raised the sails at 0815, changing our course for Cap d'Antifer. It was a slow start against the tide but great sailing. Ahead of us we could see a stream of yachts leaving Fecamp, a larger port 12 miles south west of St Valery and probably not our cup of tea. We prefer small, characterful places to overnight, or to be at anchor. Due to the wind direction, we were gaining on the other yachts up until Cap d'Antifer but we never managed to catch them up. Cap d'Antifer was very interesting, with caves and arches cut into the chalk cliffs by the rough seas around this headland. There was also a shark's tooth shaped pinnacle. By this point the tide had turned and we were speeding along at 8 knots and were going to be far too early for access to Deauville / Trouville, so we decided to look at options further along the coast. We settled on Port en Bessin, as the pilot book described it as 'a walk on the wild side'. in that it's a fishing port, not a yacht marina. We had great sailing, in sunshine, until 8 miles out, when we ran out of sea room for the direction of wind, so we rolled awar the genoa and put the engines on. We motored past Arromanches, site of the Normandy landings, where we could see the remains of Mulberry Harbour, much of which was manufactured in Goole. The seabed here was littered with wrecks, some of which are visible at lower tides, so a wide berth was required. We arrived outside Port en Bessin around 1900 hours and Pete decided to call the harbour master. We knew the lock would be open but there was doubt about the swing bridge. On the second attempt, he was answered with, 'Speak French, no speak English'. Pete attempted a little French, to be answered with the same response, rather abruptly. We decided to enter the outer harbour to see if our access was clear. Unfortunately there was a fishing vessel loading its nets in the lock. We waited for 5 minutes and then I called the harbour master in my slightly better French, to be told, in English, to wait 5 minutes please. We had another few stilted 'conversations' before the harbour master shouted 'maintenant', at which point we were able to pass through the lock and berth alongside a French yacht in a very crowded harbour. The French couple on the yacht were very friendly, welcoming and helpful and spoke pretty good English. They were planning to leave at 0630 the following morning, to catch the tide, meaning another early start for us too. We cleaned up, had tea, with a bottle of cheap French wine, took a stroll around the pretty town, which appears to have quite a few decent restaurants and went to bed. We avoided the €8 charge for an overnight stay, as the the office is only open from 10am to 6pm and our French neighbours said we were therefore exempt from paying. At 0630, the French called the harbour master for permission to leave, to be told it was priority to fishing boats until 0700. It seems the 'issue' is with yachties rather than the English. However, we were all allowed to pass through the lock at 0640. Port en Bessin is a major fishing port, with a fish auction house and an ice making facility.
It was an extremely misty morning, requiring us to use our navigation lights and have a keen eye to spot the pots and fishing boats, the majority of which don't have AIS. We got the sails up after about 90 minutes and Pete decided to try the radar. That immediately blew a fuse, leaving us blind with no instruments for 10 minutes or so. Pete replaced the fuse and the wind disappeared, so we had to resort to the engine again. We had an appointment with the Pointe de Barfleur, which requires a following tode to round it, en route to Cherbourg. We sailed on and off, as the wind allowed but eventually lost the wind altogether. We could see the 72m Pointe de Barfleur light in the distance. Advice is to round this 3 miles offshore but with no wind we were cutting in closer than this. We could see a wind line approaching and went from 2 to 12 knots in seconds, as the wind whipped of the point. There was a bit of swell and chop and we could see whirlpools everywhere. You could easily see how this area would be a washing machine with strong winds and tides. WE had just 3 knots of tide, being just after neaps. Once round the point, we headed towards Cherbourg, avoiding the shallows and got the sails back up for the last hour. A French Navy warship passed infront of us and made its way into the naval base before we dropped the sails and followed it into the outer harbour. Cherbourg Chantereyne has a plentiful supply of visitor berths but not today. This weekend is the Dhream Cup and all the visitor pontoons were full of very impressive racing yachts, all carbon fibre masts and covered in advertising. It must be a big race, as the press and TV cameras were there too. Someone waved us to an available berth on N pontoon. It was still only 2pm, giving us some rare time to complete jobs, provision the boat, shower and do some washing, while in a marina with all mod cons. The washing was top of my list; Pete's base layer and socks stank to high heaven. I had already resorted to pegging them to the guardrail while we were sailing so the smell was behind me. The Carrefour was less then a mile away, allowing us to provision the boat with fresh food for the next couple of days. The free wifi actually worked, so Pete managed to upload a few photos to the Gallery of this blog. Before collapsing into bed we did the nav for the following day. A following tide is essential round the Cap de la Hague and there's a drying height restriction in Dielette, which all needs to be balanced out. The result was a 1030 start from Cherbourg, allowing another lie in. Consequently, I was wide awake at 7am but witnessed the start to a glorious day before the marina really stirred, followed by the race crews preparring for their nig day.
The East Coast and The Channel
15 July 2020
Apologies for the lateness of this blog. Firstly we had a bit of a mad time getting ready to leave, with all the indecision around the virus. The boat was ready but we needed a lot of new technology (laptop, tablet, phone, data SIM etc.) mostly for communications. Secondly, we have been doing some long sails, in order to reach France as quickly as possible and make the most of Donna's available time, leaving us little time for anything but the navigation. Our aim is to avoid the constraints of time but so far we have been governed by time and tides!
We departed Grimsby just before 8am, on the 10th July, having stayed on board overnight. We were heading to Lowestoft, ETA 0200 hours the following day but decided, en route, to anchor at Cromer. We knew it might be a bit of a rolling anchorage but it was worse than expected. The boat was swinging round and the anchor drag alarm kept going off, on top of the noise of everything inside the boat clattering and banging as she rocked and rolled. Donna had no sleep whatsoever and I only dosed on and off. By 3am we were sitting up waiting for the dawn and enough light to see the numerous pots surrounding us. We eventually left at 4am, heading for the River Auld or Deben, for another night at anchor. As it turned out, we didn't have enough wind to sail and the new engine used more diesel than expected, so we changed our minds and went into Shotley so we could fill up again. We didn't want to run out of fuel if we needed to motor to Ramsgate the next day. It was shame to miss the Auld but the Deben was heaving, with a yacht club having a group sailing trip. The sun was cracking the flags in Shotley, which was lovely.
The tides allowed us a sleep in the following morning and we departed Shotley at 0939 BST. on Sunday the 12th July. We sailed or motor sailed, as the wind allowed, as we wound our way through the sand banks of the Thames Estuary and then had a great sail down to Ramsgate. It was a busy day for Dover Coastguard. They were refusing routine traffic reports due to multiple incidents. There was an incident involving divers but the majority were people reporting migrants in small boats, sometimes even tied up to navigational bouys. It would drive me mad if channel 16 was so noisy up North when we were sailing. We got into Ramsgate without any trouble, although the berth was a bit tight, next to a large motor cruiser. On the other side of the finger pontoon was a lovely couple, John and Nicky, from Chatham who we spent a good deal of time chatting to. We were pleasantly surprised that the berthing fee was only £35, as the pilot book had it listed as 'expensive' but that's no more expensive than Scarborough, if you have electricity!
Before leaving Ramsgate, we needed to change the gear box oil in the new engine. Pete dropped the oil soon after we arrived but noticed a warning message just before he added the new oil, that only ATF should be used, which wasn't what we had. That led to us running round Ramsgate at 9am on Monday morning, trying to buy the right oil. None of the sailing shops under the arches had any in stock and neither did Wilkos. Luckily, we spotted a marine engineer's van and the driver, Matt, was there. He saved the day with half a bottle from his work shed. By the time we had that sorted we were 30 minutes late departing and all in a mad rush. We motored to the South Cork cardinal and then got the sails up. They were down again 40 minutes later as the wind was on the nose down the channel between the sandbanks and the coast and we didn't have time to tack back and forth as, although we knew Boulogne was open, they said they had limited berths due to repairs and couldn't reserve any. However, as we approached the shipping separation scheme we had to cross on a heading of 90 degrees, which meant turning away from our destination somewhat but gave us a very good angle to make a quick sail across the 10 mile zone. We had a number of close encounters (0.3 miles seems really close when your next to something so big) with tankers and ferries, which was interesting, watching the CPA (closest proximity of approach) and taking sightings to work out if they were crossing infront of us, or us infront of them. There were also the Dover - Calais ferries crossing alongside us and as the tide drfited us 7 miles west of Calais, the ferries started crossing behind us too. Once out of the separation zone, we headed west towards Boulogne, joining a long spread out line of yachts, all heading to the same destination. The race was on for a berth! Outside Boulogne we called up Port Control on the VHF. The man was extremely friendly and welcoming. Next call was the marina, who advised us to berth anywhere on pontoon C or D, if there is still any space. They had no idea how much room was left. We did find a space but the pontoons were the shortest we have ever berthed on, barely reaching our midships cleet. Someone from a neighbouring boat held the bow off while we secured the ropes. We actually took up 2 berths but looking round, so did almost everyone else. We paid the €25 berthing fee and went for a celebratory beer. We had arrived in France, they let us in and there was no quarantine!